Super Sad Super True Love Story, by School of the Arts Writing Professor Gary Shteyngart, offers a super funny, super tragic, and at times a super frightening satire of life in a world that has been altered by constant technological innovation and expansion. Shteyngart creates a world both familiar to and distant from the reader. The majority of the novel takes place in New York, but this is a New York where Staten Island is the hippest, most expensive place to live, and the protagonist’s apartment is referred to as “way out in Manhattan.” America has consolidated its political parties into a single one, aptly named the Bipartisan Party. The dollar is so unstable that, unless it is pegged to the yuan, it is almost worthless.
Individuals are defined by their looks, health, and credit score, and anyone can find out statistics about any of these things with but a few clicks of their apparat (essentially a device that ensures constant connection through social networking, a device that makes the iPhone look as modern as an abacus). Social networking is done on GlobalTeens, a website on which, despite its age-exclusive name, everybody who is anybody has an account. Privacy and modesty are notions of the past and women wear see-through jeans and nipple-less bras with see-through tops, while everyone rates each other f$@#ability on GlobalTeens.
This future seems eerily plausible, and what makes it even more eery is that it feels so close to us, like it could be only a decade or two away. Shteyngart has given us a science fiction novel where the flying cars and jet-packs have been pushed aside for projections of social networking that has become even more integrated into our lives and that has further broken down the walls of privacy. The technologies he has invented seem like not only possible but even probable evolutions of the technologies we use now.
Shteyngart’s satire is brilliant, but one of his greatest achievements is the super true love story he has built into the novel’s core. The novel is told through two perspectives, that of protagonist Lenny Abramov, and that of Eunice Parks, a Korean girl twenty years younger than him. We witness the story of two people from two different generations as they fall in love and struggle to relate to the other.
Lenny’s story is told through diary entries, and Eunice’s through her GlobalTeens account (where language is dominated by acronyms). By letting us access each character through different means, Steyngart comments not only on love and in a world of growing technology and decreased privacy, but also on the state of reading. The reader experiences Lenny’s diary entries like a traditional novel, while the excerpts from Eunice’s GlobalTeens account indulge the reader’s desire for short bursts of fast paced information, as are provided in the attention-span-minute world of social media.
Columbia students should find Super Sad Super True Love Story easily accessible; the novel’s themes are contemporary, its setting in New York allows for multiple references to Columbia and Barnard, and its style sates the reader’s desire for text in both traditional and less attention-taxing forms. It is a hilarious and thought-provoking satire well worth any leisure reading hours one might find between required coursework and surfing Facebook.
Cody Holliday Haefner CC’12